Warehouse building owner, PG&E targets of lawsuit linked to fatal fire

OAKLAND (BCN) -- A master lawsuit on behalf of the families of half of the 36 people who were killed in a warehouse fire in Oakland in December was filed today against the building's owner, its master tenant, PG&E and other defendants.

After the suit was filed in Alameda County Superior Court, Mary Alexander, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said, "We're here to bring justice to the families of those who died and to hold accountable those who caused this horrific fire" at the Ghost Ship warehouse on Dec. 2.

Alexander said the new suit expands upon lawsuits that were filed on behalf of two victims' families in December that mainly focused on allegations of negligence against Chor Ng, the owner of the warehouse at 1315 31st Ave. in Oakland's Fruitvale neighborhood, Derick Ion Almena, the warehouse master tenant, and his wife, Micah Allison.

She said the new complaint also names PG&E as a defendant because she and other plaintiffs' attorneys believe that the utility "was negligent in supplying power to the building and failed to make it safe."

Alexander said, "PG&E failed to follow its own rules for providing electricity in a safe manner and acted with conscious and willful disregard for peoples' safety."

The suit also names that night's performer, Joel Shanahan, whose stage name is Golden Donna, Jon Hrabko and a business called "100% Silk," claiming they, along with Almena and Allison, were organizers of the Dec. 2 event, which was attended by at least 100 people.

In addition, two men who leased buildings neighboring the Ghost Ship warehouse, Daniel Lopez and Omar Vega, are also named in the suit, which claims they provided electricity and bathroom access to event attendees.

Christopher Dolan, another attorney for the plaintiffs, said that although the city of Oakland isn't named in the suit that was filed today, he believes it is "absolutely culpable for what happened because it turned a blind eye to the death trap" that he believes the Ghost Ship warehouse was.

Dolan said separate claims have been filed against the city of Oakland, Alameda County and the state of California and he believes those parties will eventually be added to the new suit.

Alexander said she believes that all of the family members of the 36 victims of the blaze will ultimately be added to the suit.

The Alameda County District Attorney's Office is conducting a criminal investigation into the fire but spokeswoman Teresa Drenick said the probe is ongoing and she doesn't know when it will be complete.

Almena's lawyers have said he didn't engage in any criminal misconduct and alleged that government agencies are responsible for the fire.

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